A major problem in todays society is that people confuse mental health with mental illness. This is fuelled by a culture that promotes ‘toxic positivity’. We are told all the time that we need to be positive and happy, however this is unrealistic and makes people feel worse because they think that there is something wrong with them because they’re unhappy. Currently, in lock down, people are at home, feeling unmotivated and low, they’re alone and they’re looking at material online that they then compare themselves to. Which makes them feel worse and so the cycle continues. They feel uncertain, lonely, un-motivation, less than and a whole range of other negative emotions.
In order to combat this, we need education. This could be targeted at all age groups, because all age groups need to know about mental health and when a negative mood, is just a bad day and when it’s a mental illness that needs professional support.
– Mental health professionals promoted on social media, that share content on what anxiety it, what depression is and what are the warning signs of when a bad mental health day, turns into a mental illness
– Flyers/booklets sent to houses with easy read information about mental health
– A regular slot on the radio stations that people can send in question to about their mental health
– Zoom sessions for school age children with accessible materials on what anxiety and worry are and what to do if you feel X, Y, or Z
– create videos that teach people the basics of mental health
– provide people with information on what is mental health (low mood, mild anxiety, feeling a bit blue, having an off day, worries) and mental illness. They can then have a better understanding of when they need to engage in some self care to make themselves feel better or when they need to seek help from a professional. They will also be better able to spot these signs in their friends and family.
– get experts by experience to share their stories so that the different groups of people have someone they can relate to
– Education on coping strategies and how to engage in them, making sure that there are accessible options for all, not just those with the economic capital to buy things
In targeting these different areas, social media, schools, post, online videos, radio and perhaps even advertisements on TV, this will increase the accessibility of this information. Many people are struggling with internet poverty currently and so the post option would also be necessary.
We need to education people on what our body does when we are anxious, why our heart races, what are negative thoughts and why do we have them, how can we improve our mood, how can we increase our motivation, how do we set goals we can stick to and achieve, what is stress and how do we reduce it.
If we did this through accessible ways, like the ones listed above, we would reach large portions of the population. Being told that other people struggle with the same things that you do is a very validating experience and is sometimes all the person needs to help them get over their fear or period of low mood. The alternative is, the person feels alone, does not tell anyone, the problem gets worse and they sit on an every growing wait list for a mental health service that is already massively overstretched.
This could be an inexpensive support system for people are currently there is a mental health epidemic happening across the UK. If we can support the general population with these difficulties and empower them with accessible education to help themselves and others, then we can free up some of the wait times on the wait lists for mental health services so see people presenting with sever mental ill health, which will subsequently reduce risk of harm to themselves and others and reduce the risk for admission to hospital.